StaTuesday: The Twins’ Byron Buxton has finally arrived

May 15, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton (25) celebrates his home run in the fifth inning against Los Angeles Angels at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

After half a decade in the system, Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton is finally the game breaker he was always meant to be.

Drafted second overall in 2012 and named baseball’s top prospect three times, Buxton, 25, struggled for years to get comfortable at the plate.

There were flashes, of course.

September 2016 for example, when Buxton hit .287 with a 1.011 OPS and nine home runs, or August 2017, when he hit .324 with a .973 OPS and eight home runs.

A Gold Glove winner in 2017, Buxton languished in the minors and on the injured list throughout 2018 before the Twins’ refusal to call him back up caused some visible angst between the two parties in September.

A few months later he showed up to camp with a new swing and immediately began terrorizing the Grapefruit League.

He finished spring training hitting .410 with a 1.249 OPS and four home runs in 16 games, setting the stage for a major comeback.

At the time, FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Paine theorized that such production, even against suspect pitching, could signal a breakthrough for both Buxton and the Twins.

So far so good.

Buxton is batting .267/.325/.517 with a .847 OPS — all career highs — and six home runs through 55 games, and hitting .287 with men on and .333 with runners in scoring position.

Byron Buxton, career (MLB)

  G AB AVG OBP SLG OPS HR 2B
2015 46 129 .209 .250 .326 .576 2 7
2016 92 298 .225 .284 .430 .714 10 19
2017 140 462 .253 .314 .413 .728 16 14
2018 29 90 .156 .183 .200 .383 0 4
2019 55 176 .267 .325 .517 .842 6 20

He also leads the American League with 20 doubles, one off of Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Josh Bell‘s major-league lead.

Minnesota has performed accordingly. The Twins entered Tuesday’s action with MLB’s best record at 40-18 and an 11 1/2 game lead in the division.

The Tampa Bay Rays found out Sunday exactly how impactful a fully-realized Buxton can be. He was everywhere, turning a stunning 8-3 double play from the center-field wall, scoring from third on a squeeze bunt and going 2-for-4 with another double.

He scored twice.

The Twins won by two.